One Last Wild True Detective Theory Before the Finale

TV Features True Detective

Note: This post contains spoilers from the first seven episodes. You should have known this from the title, but we’re trying to be nice.

We’re a mere four days away from the end of our beloved True Detective, and we’ve reached a point where the conspiracy theory fever pitch that peaked in episodes four and five has died down to a simmer. Neither Marty nor Rust are completely out of the woods in terms of secretly being the killer, but based on last week’s revelation that lawnmower man is the progeny of Sam Tuttle and the scarred man at the heart of the child abuse terror, it’s a fair guess that both detectives are on the up-and-up. Also, this excellent Daily Beast recap includes a quote from writer/creator Nic Pizzolatto that makes it fairly clear we’re not in for a crazy rug-pulled-out-from-under-us moment:

“I’ve enjoyed reading people theorize about what’s going to happen because it’s a sign that you’re connecting. But I’m also sort of surprised by how far afield they’re getting. Like, why do you think we’re tricking you? It’s because you’ve been abused as an audience for more than 20 years. I cannot think of anything more insulting as an audience than to go through eight weeks, eight hours with these people, and then to be told it was a lie—that what you were seeing wasn’t really what was happening. The show’s not trying to outsmart you.”

So the smart thing to do, as a viewer, is to sit back, turn off the paranoiac parts of your brain, and just enjoy a relatively straightforward conclusion. Rust and Cohle uncover the cabalistic sex cult, which includes Tuttles and Childresses and a few lackey deputies and sheriffs to cover things up, there’s a big showdown, and they either get their men or die trying, and either way both the good and evil persist because time is a flat circle.

BUT WHAT FUN WOULD THAT BE?!?!!?!??!!?!?!?

Before the national conspiracy hysteria is done for good, I want to contribute one last piece to the canon. And it all stems from re-watching the first episode last night, and noticing some interesting details.

Number one: The very first scene of the show, after the opening credits, shows someone—presumably a man, but it’s not clear—carrying the body of Dora Lange to the tree where the detectives later find her. Both the body and the person carrying it are silhouetted against a night sky, and it’s impossible to make out any identifying details. Check out a murky still here:


Also, and this is important, the person starts a fire after placing the body:


Someone on the Internet may have brought this up before, and it feels like the odds are good, but somehow I haven’t seen it: This whole thing makes no friggin’ sense.

First, the Tuttle cult operates in secrecy, to the point that when Rust found the incriminating videotapes and pictures in Reverend Tuttle’s Baton Rouge home, he didn’t report it, and eventually killed himself or got killed when faced with the possibility of being blackmailed. Everything the cult does is shrouded from the public eye, and it seems there are multiple layers of protection in local law enforcement. They are, emphatically, not trying to advertise.

So why would one of them drag the body of Dora Lange, antlers and all, to be found by the police. Why would that person START A FIRE to make sure the police and fire department had to descend on the area and discover the body?

It seems pretty obvious to me now that Dora Lange was a plant. Perhaps she had truly been killed in the usual fashion by the cult, but if that’s the case, it seems like one of the members had a bout of conscience and wanted to get caught. After that, Tuttle and his people tried to take over the investigation “jimminy quick with a fucking task force,” as Cohle pointed out last weekend. But Cohle avoids making the next leap, which is that while the symbolism (antlers, spiral tattoo) clearly represents the modus operandi of the cult, the public display absolutely does not.

So, that’s what I’ll call the Minor Theory of this post: We’re going to find out next week that somebody placed the body there against the will of the cult.

But I won’t stop there, or you might accuse me of not being crazy. So buckle up for the MAJOR CONSPIRACY THEORY:

Cohle planted the body.

First, two bits of information that I ignored from the first episode. One, Dora Lange’s body was discovered on Jan. 3, which was also the birthday of Cohle’s deceased daughter. All we know for sure about his daughter is what he tells the detectives in the interview room: She was hit by a drunk driver. But so many things Cohle tells the detectives are lies, so why should we trust this one? At the very least, it’s always felt like we’d hear something else about this daughter, right? One thing that seemed likely was the revelation that Cohle himself ran her over accidentally, leading to years of guilt and recrimination. But maybe it runs deeper than that; maybe his daughter was killed in a similar fashion to Dora Lange, if not by the Tuttles then by someone connected to them. Maybe that was part of the work Cohle was doing in his ensuing years as an undercover narco. Maybe his transfer to Louisiana wasn’t accidental; in fact, maybe he identified Hart’s daughter Audrey as a victim—something the show has been pointing to for a while now—and angled for the transfer so he could work with Hart to bring down the cult.

Watching last night, I noticed one other piece of information. First, the Dora Lange murder happened three months after Cohle came on the job. Second, there’s a scene where Hart visits Cohle’s spartan apartment, and says that the bare decor made him “feel bad for the guy.” As they show the apartment visit, Marty’s glance lingers for a moment on a small table stacked with books:


Books on sex crimes and serial killers are predominantly featured. Now, for the critical detail: Speaking with the detectives, Marty tells them that this visit happened two weeks into the partnership.

So: Rust Cohle was reading books about sex crimes and serial killers and crime scene photography about 10 weeks before Dora Lange’s body was found. And 10 weeks before he was supposed to know anything about the case.

The way the show is structured, you have to pay close attention to realize this visit actually came before Dora Lange, since the scene itself happens after the body is discovered. Only by noticing the “two weeks” line Marty says, which I failed to do the first time around, do you realize it happened before.

To sum up the evidence: The body was clearly planted, it happened on the birthday of Cohle’s daughter, and he was reading books about sex crimes and serial killers and other volumes that would be useful in helping stage a crime scene.

Sure, maybe Pizzolatto says we won’t get a shocking reversal in the finale, but couldn’t that just mean that neither Cohle or Hart is the killer? Isn’t it feasible to think that Cohle was working on this sex cult case long before he found Dora Lange’s body by the tree? And if he sought a partner, wouldn’t Marty be ideal if indeed his daughter had been involved without him knowing it?

And I could be completely off base. For one thing, it’s odd that Cohle would disappear to Alaska for eight years, but wasn’t that kind of odd anyway? If I’m wrong, though, I am totally unashamed, because I consider it my duty and my honor to theorize conspiratorially until the final hour. This show deserves nothing less.

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